Pauoa Bay has the most reliably safe waters in all of The Big Island. In fact, you might not even think the beach is connected to the Pacific. It simply looks like a lagoon that is cut off from the ocean by a ring of lava rocks. But look closer. There are two small inlets.
The University of Hawaii’s spectacular conservation efforts have allowed the coral reefs inside of Pauoa Bay to flourish. That means you can snap on your snorkel mask to enjoy some of the most colorful underwater scenes that Hawaii has to offer no matter your level of snorkeling experience. The waters inside the bay are so protected that you are unlikely to feel even the slightest bit of underwater turbulence. Just don’t follow the experienced snorkelers out past the protective rocks where the ocean gets bumpy.
And to cap it all off, Pauoa Bay offers up some of the softest, warmest and whitest sand on The Big Island. Add it all up, and you have the perfect family-friendly Hawaiian beach.
The beach sits right in front of the Fairmont Orchid at Mauna Lani Resort. You might even think that the beach is privately owned, but don’t be deterred. You can even use the hotel’s parking lot when you visit. Just don’t make it too obvious that you are not a guest at the hotel when parking.
You’ll find plenty of beach chair loungers along Pauoa Bay, but they belong to the hotel. Unless you’re a guest, you’ll have to throw your towel down on the sand or bring your own beach chair. You can, however, rent snorkel gear, boogie boards, stand-up paddleboards and kayaks from the hotel. When the water is at its calmest, Pauoa Bay makes for great boating.
The ocean water gets rather rough during the winter months, but Pauoa Bay generally stays protected from surf. In fact, the water inside the bay is so calm that green sea turtles often seek refuge, and you may even see dolphins and whales nearby. Just remember to keep your distance from green sea turtles. It is illegal to touch the friendly creatures, and the oils from your skin will degrade the animal’s shell to reduce its life expectancy.
Finding Pauoa Bay is easy. Simply drive north out of Kona on Highway 19 to the Fairmont Orchid at Mauna Lani Resort. It’ll be on your left about 29 miles north of Kona. Just make sure to drive onto the resort’s property with confidence, and don’t make it too obvious that you’re not a guest at the resort. The resort serves as the “unofficial” parking lot for visitors of Pauoa Bay.